Venezuela, once the richest country in Latin America, partly for being home to the biggest oil reserves in the world, is currently in a severe economic crisis. It has been the biggest migration movement on the continent, with over five million people leaving for other countries on the continent. When the neighbouring country Colombia becomes more saturated with Venezuelan immigrants and the chance of earning enough money to scrape by has become slim, a large portion of Venezuelans had to travel further south to Peru, Chile, and even Argentina to make a living. Since Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru all belong to the Union of South-American Nations (UNASUR), before June of 2019, the citizens of the UNASUR were exempted from requiring visas for travel within the union.
On June 15th of 2019, however, Peru Authority amended the immigration policy for Venezuelans, by requiring them to obtain a humanitarian visa before they are allowed to enter Peru. On August 25th, Ecuador followed Peru’s example and restricted Venezuelans from entering the country without a visa.
When Venezuelan immigrants arrived at Tumbes, the Peruvian town located at the border between Ecuador and Peru, many were informed for the first time of the policy change regarding visa requirement. Now a Venezuelan needs to hold a valid Peruvian visa to travel further south. In order to apply for a Peruvian visa, one had to travel back to the closest Ecuadorian city Loja, where the Peruvian consulate is established; and yet, to re-enter Ecuador, one is required to hold a valid Ecuadorian visa. This paradoxical situation left thousands of immigrants stuck at the border between Peru and Ecuador.
Neglecting the idea of a traditional documentary photographic approach, I decided to capture a tiny section of the wall in the Peruvian immigration office complex, where immigrants are forced to pause their journey as they waited for permission to enter Peruvian land. I continuously photographed this wall and the influx of immigrants that settled or rested or waited in front of it, over the course of 15 days. These photos were captured in their “found situation", where protagonists and their material belongings are not staged but already situated in their real-life settings. Interviews getting at migrants' personal stories, and of seeking the right to portray them, were conducted and obtained after the photos were taken.
Location: Tumbes, Peru
Date: 19/08 - 03/09/2019